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Improving the chances of successful organ transplants


Each year over 50,000 patients undergo life-saving kidney, liver, or heart and lung transplant surgery. Unfortunately, organ transplantation remains a significant challenge because of the shortage of organ donors and differences in tissue type between donor and recipient that can cause rejection of the donor organ by the recipient’s immune system. If this rejection reaction is not successfully treated through the administration of immunosuppressive drugs, the donor organ is normally destroyed within a short period of time.

EUREKA project E! 2674 MIDAS (Medical Diagnostics Applied to Surgery) has developed a new test that can significantly improve graft survival by finding a more accurate organ match.

“Usually organs are matched to recipients by comparing tissue types and selecting those pairings with the smallest genetic mismatch. Using this method alone, however, ignores sensitisation which can turn a slight mismatch into an unacceptably high risk,” explains Dr Nikolai Schwabe, CEO of UK lead partner ProImmune and the overall co-ordinator of the project.

“Sensitisation can occur as a consequence of prior contact by the recipient with the foreign tissue type, such as previous transplantations, blood transfusions and especially, in women, pregnancies during which women can be exposed to the father’s tissue type via the blood of their child. Our test is able to detect the degree of sensitisation with unprecedented accuracy and should eventually become a universal standard in testing for organ compatibility in transplant surgery,” says Dr Schwabe.

The MIDAS project was based on work that had won ProImmune a DTI SMART award and was continued within EUREKA. “This project brought us a significant step closer to entering a new and very promising product area, and it would not have been possible without the help of the EUREKA scheme,” explains Dr Schwabe. “In my mind, the EUREKA scheme stands out from other funding mechanisms, because of its flexibility. Projects are selected on the basis of their overall merit as judged by experts, in a process that is non-bureaucratic and efficient.”

With 100,000 patients on waiting lists each year, the global market for the MIDAS test could be as big as € 50 million per year. Negotiations are underway to commercialise the project through a partnership with a leading company in the area of transplantation diagnostics.

“The market in transplantation diagnostics is quite entrenched, with a few big companies dominating the field. It became clear that we should work with a market leader to successfully commercialise the MIDAS test,” explains Dr Schwabe.

Julie Sors | Eureka
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